I woke up at 2? 3? 4? to the sound of three Flammulated Owls having a conversation with each other at Lyman Lake Campground. I wasn't sure which owls I might hear on the trip, and hadn't chosen this campsite in particular for the owls, but they were calling away, each on a slightly different pitch, but on a monotone: Hoo Hoohoo.....Hoohoo Hoo... Hoo Hoohoo.... Hoohoo Hoo. Were there more owls waiting for me on the trip? I had a chance for Boreal, Great Gray, and Burrowing along the way, but I just enjoyed this morning with the owls. They also destroyed my sleep pattern for the rest of the week - ah well.
|I think these were Barrow's Goldeneyes|
So I packed up the tent, and listened to the morning chorus (Flammulated Owl, Virginia Rail, Western Wood-Peewee, American Robin, Willow Flycatcher, Evening Grosbeak, Northern Flicker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Cassin's Finch, Mountain Chickadee, Western Tanager, Chipping Sparrow, Pine Siskin, Common Yellowthroat, and a few lingering Common Nighthawks), and watched a little family of Goldeneyes on the lake below.
"Arriving at Williamson's Sapsucker... on left", chirped Jill, and I pulled the car over on the side of the forest road. It was a beautiful little spot, and many of the birds listed above were singing away - still a little before six. Sapsuckers give different calls, but are different variations on "queeyahh", sometimes more clear or more nasal. When they drum, it's usually in little bursts.
Thrushes are my favorite birds, hands down, especially when they're singing. While Varied Thrushes are my absolute favorites, Hermit Thrushes are close behind. Veeries have an interesting song! A Swainson's Thrush (very common on both side of the mountains) has a fluting song that spirals upwards, and a Veery does the opposite - fluting and spiralling downwards. I listened to it in the distance, and watched the hummingbirds, as well as a Mountain Bluebird that was visiting their yard. Coffee was still waiting for me though, so I kept going down the road.
|The view from the worst road on my trip. Not a bad place|
to get a flat, I suppose. :)
Into Ferry County
|Dude, fix your driveway|
Republic - Ferry County
We had come to Republic a few summers ago - why? Fossil digging! The Stonerose Interpretive Center was very cool - we got a fossilized leaf after a whole lot of rock smashing against a hot hillside. The plants here were fossilized in ancient lake beds following volcanic activity.
|Mud Lake, Nortwest of Republic|
|White Mountain Burn|
|Hermit Thrush - White Mountain Burn|
My last stop in Ferry County was Bangs Mountain Road. I had met up with another birder who had found a Boreal Chickadee here, likely nesting. I made a few stops, and didn't find the Chickadee, but I did hear a booming grouse, which in this part of the state would have to be a Dusky Grouse, another life bird! This was also a point where I can see my notes were deteriorating. I have American Redstart written down, but no other notes next to it. I know right now that I was getting close to the end of my rope with warblers at this point... it's not one that was going on my permanent list, even though it made it onto my list that morning. This was a beautiful stop, though, and with more time, I'd have made the trip to the top. But it was time to cross the Columbia!
Kettle Falls - Stevens County
|The Columbia River crossing from Ferry to Stevens County|
I made it into Stevens county, and noted a pigeon flying overhead, and some swallows... but I was getting a little road weary - stop for a little, look at some birds, stop for a little, look at some birds, stop for a little, look at some birds. I was also a bit beat from the early morning wakeup call from the owls. I made a decision at that point that I'd try to clean up Stevens County all in one place - Little Pend Oreille NWR. I made this decision over an ice cream cone at Kettle Falls (where I added up my list for Ferry county (51!), then got high-tailing it through Colville to Little Pend Oreille.
|Little Pend Oreille NWR|
I got to Little Pend Oreille... not the way I would have gone, Jill... (I look over at Mappy, my gazetteer, and he agrees with me, just shaking his head). I set up my tent a little on the early side (2 or 3 in the afternoon), and had some bizarre notion that I was going to take a nap in that tent before taking on Stevens County. Ten seconds inside that oven of a tent made it clear that it was not going to happen. I got in my car; Too hot for a nap. I rolled the windows down; Too many stinging insects (oh lord, these scare me... you have no idea...), so I resigned, left the tent, and started birding the refuge.
There were a lot of birds here! I drove the refuge loop, and stopped at McDowell Lake (empty except for a coot), and looked over all of the trees carefully hoping for one of the woodpeckers that had been eluding me (White-headed, American Three-toed, and Black-backed had all been seen in recent weeks). All of those woodpeckers continued to elude me, and I found I actually did want a change of scenery after a few hours, so I set off for the little town of Valley.
A coworker of mine makes regular visits to a family cabin in Valley, and I all but promised I'd stopped in. There were also reports of some birds like Lark Sparrow that I hoped to see (although I didn't have the directions I needed, in the end!), it was still nice to head through town. I was hoping to make a stop at the Valley Cafe, but it was closed. As I drove through and snapped some pictures, I had an odd incident. I thought I saw a crow, but I wasn't sure, and didn't have time to stop and check.
Of all things, a crow was an interesting bird here! I always think of crows as birds that need lots of people, lots of company, but in the end, they find other crows here in Valley, and they find things that feed them. There's a cool idea buried in there that I pondered during much of the evening, but even now, it's hard to quite put that into words. (At times like this, I wish I was a poet, like my coworker.) It's tied to the question - "Are you like a crow in Seattle, or a crow in Valley?" Something to think about. At any rate, I wasn't letting a crow slip by next time I passed one! It somehow felt right to go have some Chinese food in Chewelah at this point, so I did.
On the way back into the refuge, I followed my own directions, while Jill recalculated and begged me to take U-Turns. Not even a word of apology when the estimated arrival time suddenly dropped by ten minutes. Mappy just smiled quietly on the passenger seat. I also had a chance to pass another small lake that had Red-necked Grebes, another bird that is only seen briefly with its red neck on the West Side, but breeds over here.
|Nearly everywhere in Stevens County looks like this, I swear. It was so beautiful.|
|Small-flowered Tiger Lily|